As New Zealand Travel Agents, it’s been an incredibly busy season for us and also for the accommodation hosts and service providers in our network. Year after year, these dedicated people work long hours, especially in the mad peak season between December and February. Anyone who says it’s a lifestyle choice, has gotta be kidding!
There are many highlights for these guys, but there are ‘lows’ as well. Imagine presenting a plush villa accommodation beautifully decorated for a Christmas straight out of a Dickens novel, your guests turn up, take one look and leave. Their kids don’t like it. It’s hard not to take it personally. But then we’ve had some accommodation hosts that had such fun with their fabulous guests, they really missed them when they leave.
There’s a fantastic couple down in Christchurch who run a lovely B & B Lodge. They often arise at 4.00 am to prepare breakfast for guests with early morning flights. Sometimes, they need to stay up until 2.00am in the morning to receive their visitors from a late flight. Last year, this dedicated couple went on a 3-day break to Australia but saw nothing of the sights. Why? Because they slept for 3 days solid!
I love the hosts who will go the extra mile. We recently had customers at Ruby Bay in the Tasman. They arrived tired after a day on the road. The host drove them to their dinner in Mapua, then collected them after their meal. This added so much value to their overall New Zealand experience.
We recently sent a single lady from the States to stay at a property near Punakaiki. She didn’t have her own transport. How would she get from the Greymouth Railway Station to her accommodation. No worries, the owner and host of the property collected her and bought her back. The great thing for us, as travel agents, is being able to depend on our wonderful network in the industry. No challenge can be too big and it’s our job to find a solution. No matter how much you do for your customers, you’re only as good as your last effort.
When our hosts go the extra mile, we all win, honeymooners return with their children, then they return with their grandchildren Ultimately New Zealand wins! Lets hear it for the guides, the tour companies and accommodation providers of this beautiful little country!
Each year around 6th February, we Kiwis get a public holiday to enjoy Waitangi Day celebrations in New Zealand. This means a long, relaxing weekend of barbecues, family picnics and calm weather. Each region pays special attention to cultural events acknowledging New Zealand’s most historic document Te Tiriti o Waitangi, The Treaty of Waitangi.
This is a day that we New Zealanders remember the spirit of being one nation. We all have differing political opinions, but our commonality as New Zealanders is enough for this day.
Where else in the world do we have so much freedom to be our individual selves? I love the fact that as a female, I can get into my ‘togs’ (swimwear) without fear of harassment and join other happy families. We can openly criticize those that govern us without fear of reprisal.
We’re a nation of adventurers and will give anything a go. That’s why we’re often the first in the world to take on a new idea or trend. In other countries, banking transactions can take days or even weeks! Our banking systems are so advanced, transfers happen in one day.
You don’t have to travel far in this country for unobstructed views of beaches, forests and mountains. There are many places where you won’t see another car for miles and the only sounds are those made by nature.
I grew up listening to the evening chorus of cicadas, Tuis and Bellbirds. They lulled me to sleep and still do. There’s a lot to celebrate here folks.
Clothes for New Zealand glacier walks should be chosen with care. For a lot of travellers going down the West Coast of the South Island to Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, landing and walking on a glacier, is a must-do, but it’s usually only the guides that wear the shorts!
Generally visitors will either do a standard helicopter flight into the ‘Neve’ at around 2500 metre with an ice landing (for about 5-10 minutes) or they’ll join a guided walk with two short helicopter flights. This is called heli hike and generally takes about 2 hours on the ice. On this heli hiking option walkers need to prepare their clothing well.
Temperatures and weather conditions on a glacier in New Zealand can change rapidly. At any given time the sun may be shining and when the strong sunlight reflects off the ice, you’ll get hot and sweaty. At this stage, you might even be happy to walk on the glacier in a t-shirt! But the minute the sun goes, the temperature plummets and it’s like standing on top of a fridge. And if you’re moving around (say waiting for your helicopter to arrive) it can get extremely cold…fast. The perfect solution is the ‘onion’ clothing system – peeling on and off clothing.
Using the “onion” method requires that you wear layers of clothing that can easily be peeled off (e.g. t-shirt, sweater, rain jacket, hat, hand-gloves and sunglasses. Jeans are not recommended – if the cotton gets wet or damp, you’ll start sweating. Non-cotton trousers such as Hiking trousers, are the best.
Sunblock is essential and sunglasses are a must-have. The location alpine guide operator will provide you with a walking stick, sturdy mountain boots, crampons and a couple of socks (yes you should use two pairs of socks to prevent blisters!). If you don’t have a good rain jacket, use one of the operator’s “yellows”. The saying goes, “there is no bad weather, only bad equipment and clothing”. Listen to your alpine guides and enjoy yourselves.
For most of us in the tourism industry, the season has been mad! We need a quick break for a couple of days so we’re heading to Kaikoura Whale Country. I never tire of that first glimpse of the Kaikoura Coast. Its a beautiful green sea in the foreground and the deeper blue beyond where the whales roam. The shoreline has changed a bit since the earthquakes but this has not detracted from the rugged beauty at all. Now that access to Kaikoura has been re-established, I think the next season is going to get busy.
I think most travellers would agree that its preferable to arrive at your destination on a gorgeous summer’s day. With Kaikoura Whale Country, we’ve always been pretty darn lucky with the weather. The sea views from the main road always provide a reflective moment. You can almost see the cobwebs blowing away. Its time to relax.
We’ve noticed a trend with some high-end travellers to New Zealand of mixing and matching their accommodation. So rather than staying in premium lodges for their entire stay, they’re happy to include unique cottage stays. With this type of accommodation, privacy and peace is pretty much guaranteed. Here’s Kincaid Cottage in Kaikoura:
I loved this cottage/house from the moment I walked in. There were beautiful views from every side. People travelling with families will appreciate the views of sheep-grazing nearby. And of course, let’s not forget about the vegetable garden thoughtfully planted with herbs and vegetables for guests to use.
And if you look straight ahead, the beautiful Kaikoura Ranges have not changed at all. They’ll always look spectacular no matter what season you travel.
New Zealand has generous hosts and this one is very generous. We have freshly-laid eggs from the ‘Spice Girls’ (yes, that’s what the owners hens are called), freshly cut herbs and a fantastic range of basic pantry items. But it’s the flowers in every room of the cottage, that really has to be the ultimate welcome card.
A Super-king bed is always a pleasure to slip into at night, especially if it is styled with care.
The only problem is dragging Michael away from his work which began 5 mins after we arrived. Work always beckons, not matter how far we are from our office base.
In the early afternoon we drove into town pass the promenade, to the Coastal walk carpark. We did a loop up around the hills then and as the tide went out, we returned via the beach below. Look at moi!
On the way back down through the rocky shoreline, we saw the usual group of seals nearby. Remembering the rule of not getting too close or blocking their escape route, we return their friendly wave before passing on.
It’s only when you stop, that the exhaustion of the last few months really begin to seep in. Can’t believe we collapsed into bed at 10.00pm – no counting sheep tonight!
How technology enhances New Zealand travel depends on how comfortable you are with updating your technical know-how. Remember the old days of travel? You went to a travel agency, looked at pretty brochures, chose a ‘package’, then crammed all the paperwork into your suitcase. Travel is much easier with the internet, ‘cloud’ and smart travel apps. We love them!
The speed of making decisions and travel arrangement on the spot. We hear from hosts that travellers making a booking outside their property (via smart phone booking app) and walk in the next minute!
The choices in travel services is much larger. Even tiny travel operators can advertise their services to a worldwide audience. Those sometimes selecting the right one can be a challenge.
Social media is huge and news travels fast in this day and age. Travellers can express their opinions freely. Again, this can be sometime unfair and misleading.
TripCase – we love this travel planning and organising tool! You can start planning at home on your desktop and have all your travel details such as dates, reservation numbers and weather forecast, on your smart phone at your very finger tips. Flight delays while travelling? No problem, the new ETA is automatically updated and uploaded to the Tripcase. With Tripcase, we can upload our clients travel data out of our system in a matter of seconds. Guess what… most of our clients want it!
Booking.com – this booking engine has come a long way and is extremely easy to use either on your desktop, tablet or smart phone. They mainly list motel, hotels and motorcamps, and the selections are good. Not so good at making a lot of sense on a good travel itinerary where locations, distances and experiences actually need to work.
Air New Zealand app – you can order your latte in the Koru lounge or book your next flight through this smart app. I think for a small airline, Air NZ have always been at the top of their game with technology.
Thrifty Rental Car app – this is a classic example of a New Zealand operator going the extra mile by having petrol stations, food places and major sightseeing highlights listed on an app.
What is your favourite travel app? Please use the comments and us know!
Wherever we go next with travel technology, let’s hope we still enjoy the basics in exploring the world, meeting new people, experiencing the unique.